PHOTO: VisitScotland hopes many viewers of Outlander will follow Claire and Jamie over to Scotland. (Courtesy of VisitScotland)
About 3.7 million viewers tuned into the opening episode of the romantic sci-fi thriller Outlander on Aug. 9. The STARZ Network series, based on the bestselling series of novels by Diana Gabaldon, uses the mysterious time traveling binges of its heroine Claire Randall (played by Caitriona Balfe), to explore Scottish history, location and love. On her time travels in the Scottish Highlands in the 18th century, Claire becomes involved romantically with the dashing Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan). VisitScotland has assembled a map and online guide that details the locations in the novels and on the series.
The online map and itinerary are part of a wider VisitScotland marketing campaign entitled Scotland: The Land That Inspired Outlander. Loch Ness, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in Edinburgh and Fort William are among the settings. The filming of the 16-part first season took place last fall in locations including Inverness, Glasgow, Perthshire, Fife, Edinburgh and West Lothian.
“As well as highlighting real locations that feature in the books, our map and itinerary also reveal the best places for visitors to trace their ancestry, learn about the Jacobite Uprising, and discover the real Scotland – the land that inspired Outlander,” said Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland. “Scotland really is the star of Outlander and its focus on stunning scenery; romance, adventure and ancestry make it a fantastic advert for Scotland. Research has shown that around a fifth of visitors to Scotland are inspired to come here after seeing it on television or on film and, that being the case, we are hoping for big things from Outlander.”
According to Multichannel News’ R. Thomas Umstead, by its third episode, Outlander was setting a STARZ series record with more than 1 million viewers. “The record audience for Saturday’s third episode premiere was up 39 percent compared to the first episode and up 12 percent from the second episode, according to Starz. Overall, Saturday's episode of Outlander drew 1.7 million viewers including repeats and 2.4 million viewers over the total weekend on Starz,” wrote Umstead. Women comprise about 60 percent of all viewers.
Perhaps it was the Tolkien films that were shot in New Zealand that presented the model for the partnerships between tourism boards and film producers. In the first quarter of 2014, American visits to Norway were up 38 percent largely because of the Disney film, “Frozen.” Disney-Pixar and VisitScotland teamed up in 2012 with the film, “Brave,” which was enormously successful in driving Americans to Scotland. For producers, the flexibility in finding locations and other assistance provided by tourist boards is a major bonus.
This coming October, Rabbie’s Small Group Tours will feature its seven-day “Blazing the Jamie and Claire Trail — an Outlander Theme Tour." The trail explores Edinburgh, Doune Castle (standing in for Castle Leoch in the series), Glencoe and Fort Williams and includes a whisky distillery tour along the way. The trip departs Oct. 31, priced from $1,005 per person double. Rabbie’s is but one of a number of Outlander tours already operating in Scotland.